Uncertain future for staff at Clintons stores

STAFF at town centre stores in Luton and Dunstable face an uncertain future after another big name brand fell victim to the high street spending slump yesterday.

Greeting card firm Clinton Cards collapsed into administration last night after experiencing cash flow problems “due to extremely challenging trading conditions”.

The move puts Clinton Cards stores in The Mall Luton and The Quadrant in Dunstable, as well as the Pure Party store, also operated by the Clinton group, in danger of closing.

Although administrators have said that it puts 8,000 jobs nationwide at risk, it is unclear how many staff work at the Luton and Dunstable stores.

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While administrators Zolfo Cooper remained confident that a buyer for the firm could be found last night, they admitted that store closures are inevitable.

Joint administrator Peter Saville said: “Our first priority is to stabilise the business and assess its financial position. We will continue to trade the business while we undertake a full marketing exercise to find buyers for all or parts of the group so that the best possible outcome can be achieved for stakeholders.

“It is likely that a number of stores will need to be closed in order to make the business financially viable.”

The store has come under increasing pressure in recent years after heightened competition from online retailers and the opening of cheaper alternatives.

Commenting on our Facebook page yesterday, shopper Ben Burnell said: “I use Card Factory, so much cheaper and the quality just as good. Have not used Clintons once since Card Factory came to Luton. Why would I when I can get a card for 89p?”

The company is the latest in a line of big name brands to facefinancial mire. Most recently Game Station and Game, both owned by the Game group, pulled out of Luton and Dunstable after entering administration, while Peacocks and Bon Marche stores in both towns survived a recent cull after suffering financial strife.

Of 132 units in Luton’s Mall, 11 are currently vacant while several shops remain closed in Dunstable’s Quadrant.

But it’s not all doom and gloom for the high street, says The Mall Luton manager Mark Broadhead, with footfall up 1.9 per cent this month on last year.

He said: “Debenhams is having a multi-million pound re-fit and Clarks are just undertaking a new concept re-fit due for completion this month, so all in all there is still money being invested in the centre and people recognise the value of Luton as a retail space.”

At the weekend there was a 47 per cent decrease in year on year trade when compared with a normal bank holiday Saturday due to protests in the town by the English Defence League and the We Are Luton.